NEW PORT RICHEY — One afternoon in 2007, gunfire erupted first at a Port Richey fast-food drive-in, then a few hours later in a neighborhood a few miles away. Authorities said that in both cases, a 17-year-old was the shooter.
Vito Paul Cito, now 21, was charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault in the two incidents. He is on trial this week in connection with the aggravated assault — the second shooting on June 3, 2007. The charge carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison.
That evening, Cito got into an argument at home with his friend, Lance Tubbs, prosecutors said. Tubbs, then 15, and his mother had come to Cito's house on Waxwing Drive and Cito made a disparaging remark about the mother.
The two teens started arguing and it spilled into the front yard. Tubbs was threatening to beat up Cito, who then jumped into a green Jeep and sped away. Tubbs began chasing on foot, and Cito pulled out a revolver and fired it toward him, prosecutors said. Tubbs was not hit.
Defense attorney Scott Andringa said Cito was terrified of Tubbs and drove off to escape harm. He said there's reasonable doubt as to whether Cito fired the gun at his friend. He likely shot at the ground or into the air, Andringa said.
Assistant State Attorney Bryan Sarabia discounted the notion that Cito was acting out of fear.
"Nobody had put their hands on anybody else. Nobody had thrown any punches," he said.
Tubbs testified Tuesday, and said he watched as Cito held up the revolver with his finger on the trigger. At that point, Tubbs dove to the ground.
Andringa pressed him on whether he actually saw Cito fire the gun at him.
"I didn't see the bullets coming out," Tubbs said, adding, "The gun was pointed at me."
Cito was arrested the next morning after leading deputies on a chase in Clearwater, authorities said. They found him hiding under a portable classroom at South Ward Elementary School. Deputies also found the revolver used in the shooting under the portable.
Jurors in this case are not hearing anything about the earlier shooting at Checkers.
Authorities say Cito fired a gun out of the sunroof of a car, wounding two men at a Checkers drive-through on U.S. 19 in Port Richey.
Christopher Baun, then 37, was hit in the neck and flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. David Thomlinson, then 34, was taken to a local hospital with an arm wound. Both men recovered.
Cito is set for trial later this year in that case, charged with attempted murder.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.